The MIT Media Lab is an interdisciplinary research laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology devoted to projects at the convergence of technology, multimedia, sciences, art, and design. Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and his team designed a dynamic new identity for the lab that continues the institution’s traditions of timelessness and flexibility.
The lab has a long history of graphic innovation, from its first identity, a malleable motif of colored bars designed by Jacqueline Casey, to Muriel Cooper’s legendary Visual Language Workshop and iconic logo for MIT Press. The new identity designed by Pentagram builds on the previous system, designed by Richard The and Roon Kang for the Lab’s 25th anniversary in 2010. Though the acclaimed system was capable of algorithmically generating over 40,000 permutations of the logo, its continuously changing form did not sufficiently distinguish and unify the individual departments that make up the lab as a whole.
The new solution developed by Bierut and designer Aron Fay uses the seven-by-seven grid of The’s anniversary logo to generate a simple “ML” monogram that serves as the logo for the Media Lab. Using that same grid, the designers extended the identity to each of the 23 research groups that lie at the heart of the Lab’s activity. The result is an interrelated system of glyphs that at once establishes a fixed identity for the Media Lab, but celebrates the diversity of activity that makes the Lab great. Helvetica, so central to MIT’s communications when the Media Lab was new, has been reinstated to support the overall system.
The new identity was unveiled at the Media Lab’s Fall Members Meeting, which was organized, appropriately, around the theme of “Deploy.” To celebrate the theme, the designers extended the identity’s visual language with multiple expressions of the word. The result was not only a debut of a new kind of identity, but a real-time demonstration of the identity’s endless potential.
“The Media Lab's new identity system brilliantly sidesteps the failures of its celebrated predecessor, while at the same time giving it a nice nod. The Deploy event materials are a great demonstration of what all those glyphs can do.”
“This project demonstrates a good extension of an existing visual identity system with a vivid application throughout the event venue. The visual code aligns well with the MIT’s lab character and skillfully bridges the realms of design and engineering.”
Michael Bierut (partner in charge, designer), Aron Fay (designer)
MIT Media Lab NecSys Group (event “dashboard” and glass infrastructure screens), Radiant RFID (RFID tags), Sargent Production Services (event production)
Advanced Imaging Inc.